I know of a company that was on the verge of being bought for $100M. Then COVID-19 came in, the deal fell through, and now the business, forced to go through bankruptcy, is selling its assets for $20M.
This will not be a unique case. In the coming weeks and months, expect a growing list of companies looking at bankruptcy as their way out due to the ongoing economic effects from the pandemic.
Unlike past downturn-related bankruptcy sales, there is a very valuable M&A tool that can be brought into the transaction that greatly benefits both Buyers and Sellers (also known in these cases as debtors):
Representations and Warranty insurance.
As Bryan O’Keefe, Gena Usenheimer, and James Sowka, partners at Seyfarth Shaw, put it in their recent article, “How An M&A Tool Can Benefit Bankruptcy Sales”:
“When properly utilized, reps and warranties insurance can increase the value of the distressed asset while simultaneously providing the asset purchaser with a backstop on the promises made in the purchase agreement.”
R&W coverage transfers the indemnity risk away from the Seller to a third party – the insurer. And the Buyer simply goes to the insurer with a claim for damages from any breaches post-closing. It’s a win-win for both sides of the transaction.
In bankruptcy deals covered by R&W insurance, the Seller’s company and/or its assets are more valuable, which gives them more cash to cover their debts. The simple reason why is that an asset backed up by an insurance company is more valuable to a Buyer than an asset that is bought as is. They can sell for more, simply put.
For Buyers, this coverage gives them protection and peace of mind that if something goes south and there are unknown breaches of the reps and warranties of the Purchase and Sale Agreement, they won’t have to go after the debtor (which doesn’t have funds to cover the damages because of their financial situation) for relief because the insurance company is ready to go.
This is vastly different than how business is usually done with these 363 sales. In the past, the mode was “as is, where is.”
It’s kind of the like buying a used car “as is”—it’s up to the purchaser to have a mechanic check out the vehicle to make sure it’s in good running order and there are no hidden issues. When a car warranty is added to the deal, not only does it cover repairs if something breaks down unexpectedly, but the owner can also actually increase the selling price.
With a 363 sale, the burden of conducting due diligence of the target asset is on the Buyer, and they often have a shortened timeline to conduct it. Things can be overlooked. R&W coverage acts like the car warranty.
As Bryan, James, and Gena say in their article:
“Most 363 sales are ‘as is, where is’ – a bankruptcy term of art meaning that the asset purchase agreement has no indemnities and the debtor is not standing behind the usually limited reps and warranties contained in the agreement.”
“While the bankruptcy court’s 363 sale order wipes out third-party claims against the assets, it does nothing for so-called ‘first party claims’ – that is, the reps and warranties made between the debtor and buyer around the overall state of the assets.”
R&W coverage is more affordable than ever. It causes no friction or change in dynamics in the deal; in fact, it makes negotiations smoother. And it’s now available for middle market companies. This has meant its widespread adoption in some M&A circles.
PE firms have been on board with R&W insurance for several years now. And SPACs are warming up to R&W as well. Now it’s time for bankruptcy sales to join in.
Why haven’t bankruptcy attorneys already been using this unique insurance product? They simply were not familiar with it.
You should know that insurance companies have departments that specialize in R&W coverage exclusively for 363 sales, which means not only are they experts in the field but also are coming in with aggressive pricing for the policy, which is a relief of companies in trouble, who face higher legal and other fees in general.
As bankruptcy attorneys realize these and all the other benefits of R&W coverage, watch for its use to increase as the coming wave of bankruptcies crests in the near future.
To find out how this specialized type of insurance can be a game-changer in your 363 sale or more straightforward deal, contact me, Patrick Stroth, at firstname.lastname@example.org for all the details.